Please refer to the specific reactor pages for information specific to that unit.
Information in this timeline is based on media and official reports and how these events were understood at the time.
New information and understanding may supersede information here.
No video made? TEPCO claimed there was no recording of the early hours of the disaster from any source. (1)
Friday, 11 March: 1446 local time (0546 GMT) The 8.9-magnitude earthquake strikes off the coast of Honshu island at a depth of about 24km. The tremor triggers the automatic shutdown of 11 of the nation’s nuclear power reactors, including reactor units 1,2 and 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. Reactor units 4, 5 and 6 were undergoing routine inspections and were not operating. The quake causes the power station to be cut off from the national electricity grid. The plant’s operators, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), find that the diesel-powered emergency generators for units 1 and 2 are not working and notify government officials. (3)
1541: Tepco reports that the emergency generators for reactor units 1, 2 and 3 have failed – some reports suggest that the diesel-powered back-up systems are affected by the tsunami. In the following hours, engineers attempt to install mobile power units to replace the diesel systems and manage to stabilize conditions at units 2 and 3, but not at unit 1. (3)
1600: Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa) sets up an emergency headquarters to gather information on potential damage to the nation’s 55 nuclear reactors. (3)
1930: Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano announces that Prime Minister Naoto Kan has declared a “nuclear emergency status”. Officials reassure people that this is standard procedure in events like this and no radioactive material has been detected in the area surrounding the power station. (3)
2100: Residents within a 3km radius of the power station are told to leave their homes, while those within a 10km radius are told to stay at home in case it is necessary to extend the evacuation area. Following the automatic shutdown of the reactors, and the failure of emergency generators, pressure in the unit builds up as a result of the pumps in the cooling system not working properly. The pressure is the result of the reactor’s residual “decay” heat causing the coolant, which is not being circulated, to evaporate. The consequent increase in pressure in the coolant circuit can be controlled by pressure release valves, but this leads to an increase in pressure within the reactor building containment chamber. Tepco says that the pressure inside reactor unit 1 is more than twice normal levels. (3)
Saturday, 12 March: 0530 local time In order to release some of the pressure inside the reactor unit, the decision is taken to vent some of the steam, which contains a small amount of radioactive material, into the air. (3)
0819: An alarm alerts workers that the position of one control rod (used to halt the reactor) is unclear (whether it is fully inserted into the reactor or outside the reactor, allowing it to continue generating heat) (3)
“SDF members headed to the plant with water yesterday (March 12) at our request, but they returned after seeing the explosion,” explained a TEPCO official at 9:15 a.m., referring to a hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor building. (2)
After the March 12 explosion at Unit 1, dozens of workers were highly exposed, but TEPCO officials debated how they could allow extra exposures without getting in trouble. One anonymous official suggested “they can go home and take a bath and open their pores” to wash off contamination. He said they could get health checks when whole-body counters become available later, while another official suggested they should abide by the rule. – CBS (1)
After the March 12 explosion at Unit 1, dozens of workers were highly exposed to radiation, and the videos reveal TEPCO officials debated how they could allow extra exposures without getting in trouble. “They can go home and take a bath and open their pores” to wash off contamination, one official suggests. Days later, the government raised the maximum exposure levels to more than double the usual limit for emergency operation. – AP (1)
1009: Tepco confirms it has released a small amount of vapor into the atmosphere to reduce pressure in reactor unit 1. (3)
1043: Control rod alarm stops, and all rods are confirmed as being fully inserted. (3)
1058: In order to release some of pressure inside reactor unit 2, some steam was vented into the air. Again, this contains a small amount of radioactive material. (3)
1530: TV cameras capture a massive explosion at the power station. The pictures appear to show that the outer structure of one of four buildings at the plant has collapsed. Tokyo Electric Power Co says four workers have been injured in the blast. (3)
2000: Uncertainty surrounds what was the actual cause of the explosion, and what damaged was caused by the blast. Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano confirms that the concrete building surrounding the steel reactor container has collapsed as a result of the blast, but the steel containment chamber itself had not been damaged. (3)
2020: Tepco begins pumping seawater, mixed with the element boron, into unit 1’s reactor. Boron is used as a shield in nuclear reactors, as it controls the nuclear reaction. Nisa confirms that monitoring systems in the area have detected presence of radioactive elements caesium-137 and iodine-131 in the vicinity of unit 1. It reports an initial increase in levels of radioactivity around the plant, but says these levels have been observed to lessen. (3)
2300: In its latest update, the plant’s operator says: “We are preparing to implement a measure to reduce the pressure of [unit 3’s] reactor containment vessels under the instruction of the national government.” (3)
On 12 Complained in March around 23:00 clock is Takekuro Ichiro, who had been sent by TEPCO as a liaison to the office of then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan, the tone of the government: he was very often become very angry and yelled at him was harsh. – SpreadNews (1) *quote is machine translated from German
In the footage, Takekuro said at around 11 p.m. on March 12, 2011, “He (Kan) got really mad very often. You name it. When I gave him a briefing, he told me, ‘On what grounds? Can you say things will be alright that way even if something happens?‘ He was harshly screaming at me.” The footage confirms that discord emerged between the Prime Minister’s Office and TEPCO immediately after the outbreak of the nuclear crisis. – Mainichi (1)
Sunday, 13 March: 0122 local time An official at Japan’s nuclear agency rates the incident at 4 on the 0-7 international scale of severity. The 1986 Chernobyl disaster was rated 7, while the 1979 Three Mile Island accident was rated 5. (3)
0320: The World Health Organisation says the risk to the public from the radiation leak at Fukushima is “probably quite low”. (3)
0523: The International Atomic Energy Agency says the plant’s operator has confirmed that the containment vessel around unit 1 is intact and levels of radioactivity nearby have fallen in recent hours. (3)
0623: An official from Nisa says the emergency cooling system at the plant’s Unit 3 reactor has failed. (3)
At 7:30 a.m. on March 13, senior crisis managers at TEPCO headquarters decided to dispatch fire engines from conventional thermal power plants in the Tokyo metropolitan area, roughly 200 kilometers away. But TEPCO was unable to marshal the crews directly because they worked for Nanmei Kosan, a TEPCO affiliate responsible for fire engines at its power plants. The delay continued early the next morning. (2)
On the morning of March 13, TEPCO began discussing whether it needed to establish a logistics base. The government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency briefed it about radiation and told TEPCO to prepare to send extra vehicles and staff into the precautionary exclusion zone. One possible site for a base was J-Village, a soccer training facility in Naraha, about 9 kilometers south of the plant. But this was adjacent to the Fukushima No. 2 plant, which suffered a partial power loss after the tsunami, and, at that time, a precautionary exclusion zone stretched beyond the soccer center. They finally settled on the Onahama coal center, a TEPCO storage base within Onahama port, 60 km from the No. 1 plant. (2)
0752: Tepco say it is preparing to release steam – containing a small amount of radioactive material – from unit 3 in an effort to lower the temperature inside. It is also looking for an alternative way to inject water into the reactor because without a continuous flow of water, there is a danger that the fuel rods will become exposed to the air and could melt. (3)
0826: Yukio Edano tells state TV the unit 3 reactor was in danger, but attempts are underway to vent steam. Subsequently, it is reported that radiation has again risen above legal safety limits around the plant. (3)
At 10:15 a.m. on March 13, it was reported that 800 liters of gasoline were on their way to the coal center. But a problem arose. TEPCO could not secure trucks and drivers to transport the fuel any farther because of fears over radiation. The fuel reached Onahama, and there it stayed. (2)
But on March 13, the SDF stayed out of the plant. “SDF members headed to the plant with water yesterday (March 12) at our request, but they returned after seeing the explosion,” explained a TEPCO official at 9:15 a.m., referring to a hydrogen explosion at the No. 1 reactor building. “They received high radiation doses after being exposed to radioactivity and contamination.” At 1:25 p.m., TEPCO headquarters reported that the SDF informed it of conditions it must meet if it wanted troops to help at either plant. TEPCO employees would have to come to the nearby government response center, to brief the troops and let them judge what gear and equipment to take. (2)
1326: Mr Edano says venting of unit 3 was completed at 0841 local time, but a partial meltdown in the reactor is still “highly possible”. (3)
1538: The Japanese government warns of the risk of another reactor explosion following the failure in unit 3. But a spokesman attempts to reassure people by saying the unit is designed to protect the reactor core in the same way as unit 1, and – so far – the radioactivity released into the environment does not pose a threat to human health. (3)
On 13 March 2011 at 19:00 clock suggests a telephone conversation between TEPCO President Tsunehisa Katsumata and liaison Takekuro the assumption that the chairman of a hydrogen explosion had not been anticipated. In this Katsumata said: “It looks like we might be able to open the vent at number 3. I think the PROBLEM of hydrogen is very low. “ – SpreadNews (1)
The footage also shows a scene that suggests that then TEPCO Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata may not have predicted a hydrogen explosion at the No. 3 reactor at all. In a telephone conversation with Takekuro at around 7 p.m. on March 13, 2011, Katsumata said, “It looks like we may be able to open the vent at the No. 3 (reactor). I think that the problem of hydrogen is very small.” In the end, a hydrogen explosion ripped through the No. 3 reactor at around 11 a.m. on March 14, 2011. – Mainichi (1) *dead link
2005: In his latest public briefing on the situation, Mr. Edano says authorities have begun injecting seawater into the unit 3 reactor to try to lower the temperature – as they did on Saturday with unit 1. He says the water level inside is thought to be rising to more satisfactory levels, but the gauge, which seems to be broken, is not showing this. (3)
2209: It is reported that Tepco is planning to pump seawater into reactor number 2 at the plant – this is the first time problems have been reported with this third unit. It is worth noting that using seawater like this is terminal for a nuclear reactor. It is a last-ditch move and renders the reactor permanently unusable. (3)
2241: UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, says a state of emergency has been declared at a second Japanese nuclear power plant, Onagawa. The IAEA says high radiation levels had been found around the plant. A fire broke out in the turbine building of one the reactors at Onagawa on Friday, but was put out. (3)
2350: Japan’s nuclear safety agency says there is no problem with the cooling systems at the Onagawa plant. It blames the high radiation levels on radioactive releases from the Fukushima Daiichi complex. (3)
Operators could only act by opening main steam safety relief valves to release the pressure and let fire engines spray water inside. Those valves required power from 10 12-volt automotive batteries connected in series. But on the morning of March 13, there were insufficient batteries at the plant. (2)
Monday, 14 March: 0053 local time Malcolm Crick, secretary of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, tells Reuters: “This is not a serious public health issue at the moment. It won’t be anything like Chernobyl. There the reactor was operating at full power when it exploded and it had no containment.” (3)
Then on March 14 water was the problem. Although the plant stands on Japan’s Pacific shore, it had no fire engines capable of pumping water over the 10-meter elevation from the ocean. Instead, engineers cooled reactors 1 and 3 by pumping pools of seawater left by the tsunami. The pools shrank, and at 1:10 a.m. on March 14, water pumping ceased. (2)
At 1:41 a.m. on March 14, a TEPCO headquarters official handling contact with government ministries and agencies began speaking with these words: “We’ve got something urgent.” It was about NISA’s repeated instruction to inject water into the No. 2 reactor. Water injection there was underway early on March 14 because the core cooling system, called the isolation cooling system, had pumps that could function without batteries. But the pumps might soon shut down. NISA officials wanted TEPCO to switch as soon as possible to the injection of water from outside sources. There arose a serious obstacle to letting that happen: There was little seawater available nearby in pools, and the fire engine pumps at the plant were incapable of pumping seawater from the ocean because they had insufficient power to lift water over the 10-meter elevation from sea level. (2)
0207: A cooling pump at the Tokai nuclear power plant, 120 km (75 miles) from Tokyo, has failed, a plant spokesman says. But he says an additional pump is working and is cooling the reactor. Japan Atomic Power Company says the temperatures of the reactor have continued to fall. (3)
So operators used what seawater was available in pools left by the tsunami, and at 3 a.m. on March 14, Muto and Yoshida discussed ways of pumping it from the ocean below. “Can’t we, for example, lift seawater by putting many fire engines in a line?” Muto suggested. (2)
Fire trucks from one plant drove to the wrong location, reaching the comparatively undamaged Fukushima No. 2 power plant instead of the crisis-hit No. 1 plant. At 3:01 a.m. on March 14, a TEPCO official at company headquarters said the driver had been unable to navigate at night. TEPCO executive Sakae Muto shot back: “I understand passenger cars had no problem getting there.” Muto, an executive vice president, was among managers gathered at the government’s nuclear disaster control center in the vicinity of the No. 1 plant. Then, at 3:05 a.m., a member of the control center staff reported a problem with the Nanmei Kosan crews. “They are getting nervous, worried that radiation levels are extremely high,” he said and urged managers to ease the crews’ concerns. “Officials at TEPCO headquarters should explain that the work does not involve risk,” he said. “But I think it important, too, that our most senior managers talk directly to the company and kindly ask for cooperation.” At 3:15 a.m., the TEPCO headquarters told the site: “You, too, should begin a polite discussion with Nanmei Kosan. We are in the middle of doing so with its main office.” Two minutes later, the headquarters added: “Nanmei Kosan has awoken its employees and is telling them, ‘Get going now! Don’t look, just do it.’ ” At 3:22 p.m. on March 14, an official at the TEPCO headquarters asked Masao Yoshida, plant chief, if the site needed additional fire engine operators, saying four at the Hirono thermal plant were available. “Yes, we need them very much,” Yoshida replied in a forced tone of voice. Four employees of Nanso Service, a Nanmei Kosan subsidiary, came to the rescue. Yoshida later said TEPCO had no choice but to ask for help. (2)
“Can’t we, for example, lift seawater by putting many fire engines in a line?” Muto suggested. Work to do that got underway at 9:05 a.m. on March 14 when large fire engines from thermal plants in the metropolitan area arrived and were connected in series. (2)
By March 14, the situation at the No. 1 plant had not improved. TEPCO received a report that seven SDF tankers, carrying 35 tons of water in all, arrived at the plant at 10:57 a.m. Four minutes later, a hydrogen explosion ripped apart the No. 3 reactor building. Four SDF members were injured. (2)
Soon after 11 a.m. on March 14, 2011, the loudspeakers crackled in the crisis command center of Tokyo Electric Power Co.: “Headquarters, headquarters,” came the voice of Masao Yoshida, then-manager of Tepco’s Fukushima Daiichi power plant, where one of the world’s worst nuclear accidents was unfolding.“We have a big problem, we have a big problem. It seems there has been an explosion at Unit 3.” Pandemonium ensued. – WSJ (1)
TEPCO reports that at 11:01 am March 14 a hydrogen explosion happened at unit 3 TEPCO Press Release Unit 3 Explosion
The footage also showed another heated exchange involving Tepco workers. Soon after reactor 3 was rocked by a hydrogen explosion at around 11 a.m. on March 14, Masao Yoshida, then chief of the plant, hurriedly called Tepco headquarters. “It’s probably reactor 3, and it has just exploded!” Yoshida said. The report caused a big stir at the plant and Tepco HQ, as the voices of confused workers can be more loudly heard in the footage. Some yelled “Check the parameters of reactor 3!” while others called around to check if everyone was OK. – Japan Times (1)
Hydrogen explosion at reactor No. 3 (approximate timecode: 7:00 – 8:00) March 14, 2011, around 11 a.m. This clip records the moment Mr. Yoshida, the Fukushima Daiichi plant manager, tells Tepco headquarters about the explosion at reactor No. 3. “Headquarters, headquarters,” he yells into the microphone. “We have a big problem, we have a big problem. It seems there’s been an explosion at Unit 3!” “OK, we’ll make an emergency report,” says a voice from Tepco headquarters, while Mr. Yoshida gives the time — 11:01 — his voice cracking. From the Tepco head office, an executive asks whether it’s the same kind of thing as happened two days earlier, when a hydrogen explosion destroyed the reactor building at Unit 1, in the first external sign that the plant was spinning out of control. Yes, Mr. Yoshida answers, “It’s hard to tell from the command center, but it was clearly different from an earthquake.” Tepco managing director Akio Komori can be heard from the head office saying, “Evacuate the workers from the site.” Then-president Masataka Shimizu also weighs in with “Report it to the relevant authorities immediately!” In the background, people at Fukushima Daiichi are shouting over each other, asking for and reporting readings from Unit 3. Mr. Komori repeats, “Report it to the prime minister’s office and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency!” – WSJ (1)
Around 11 a.m. on March 14*, Yoshida screamed to officials at Tokyo headquarters: “The headquarters! This is serious, this is serious. The No. 3 unit. I think this is a hydrogen explosion. We just had an explosion.” In the video’s background, other officials shout questions, asking for radiation levels and other data. – CBS (1) * dead link
The emergency command center at Japan’s stricken nuclear plant shook violently when hydrogen exploded at one reactor and the plant chief reacted by shouting “This is serious, this is serious,” – CBS (1) * dead link
“I can’t see anything from here because of heavy smoke,” Yoshida said after the explosion. Even though workers struggled to assess the situation, they fell behind media reports. A voice from an off-site emergency center is heard, a man saying he saw explosion on television news. – CBS (1) * dead link
As workers struggled to assess the situation, they fell behind media reports. A voice from an off-site emergency center says he saw the explosion on television news. – AP (1) * dead link
Yoshida later said TEPCO had no choice but to ask for help. “We cannot even handle fire engine pumps without Nanmei Kosan,” he said on the afternoon of March 14. (2)
This detailed translation of the exchange between Yoshida and TEPCO’s offices was translated by EX-SKF, times in parenthesis are times on the video:
(at 0:05 -) About the dose level, it is 39.406 microcurie/hour.
(at 0:20, the upper right screen for 1F (Fukushima I Nuke Plant) shakes.)
(at 0.58 -) HQ?: Well, right now, 3-meter tsunami warning issued for Hamadori [coastal Fukushima], can you hear us, 1F? 3-meter tsunami warning has been just issued for Hamadori. Please pay attention.
(at 1:13 – ) Plant Manager Yoshida at 1F: HQ! HQ!
HQ: Yes, this is HQ.
Yoshida: HQ! HQ! It’s bad! It’s bad!
HQ: Yes!? Yes?
Yoshida: Reactor 3, probably steam explosion, it just happened!
HQ: (in a weak, almost disappearing voice) Alright... (someone else) O..OK. Emergency communication…
Yoshida: (overlapping the HQ person) Happened at 11:01 AM.
HQ: 11:01AM. (totally unexcited,) Roger. We will make emergency communication...
HQ: That, that is the same as Reactor 1 [explosion], isn’t it?
Yoshida: Yes, in the building, inside the Anti-Seismic Building here, we can’t tell, but a side-way shake, clearly different from an earthquake, came, and there was no after-shake like in an earthquake. So I think this is an explosion, just like what happened in Reactor 1.
HQ: OK. Roger.
In Yoshida’s background at 1F: Parameters! Somebody look at the parameters of Reactor 3! Call the central control room for Reactor 3 and find out!
Yoshida: And the workers on the scene, will take shelter, take shelter!
HQ(?): We’ll notify people immediately. Emergency communication...
(From 2:17 to 2:25, yelling and shouting in the background, probably at 1F. Someone at the Off-Site Center – upper left screen – sits with folded arms.)
Yoshida: Well, NISA [Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency] and Prime Minister’s Office…
In Yoshida’s background: The environment inside this room [the emergency response headquarters on the 2nd floor of the Anti-Seismic Building at Fukushima I], no change in gamma rays and neutrons. Report over.
Yoshida: … keep them connected, real-time.
Yoshida’s background: Hey! (beep)
(2:40, someone is heard making a speech. It sounds like Yukio Edano, then-Chief Cabinet Secretary, and the administration spokesman) “… causing troubles for you. However, the actual power suppl...” (cut off)
(2:57) (HQ? 1F?): To Mr. Takeguro…., directly… [Takeguro, TEPCO’s representative at PM Official Residence]
(3:10 Voice that sounds like Mr. Edano comes back) “…as you prepare, to minimize your inconvenience...”
(3:21) HQ (Probably Mr. Komori?, executive director, making a phone call to NISA): At 11:02 AM, (was that 11:02?), at 11:02, in Reactor 3, there was a possibility of a hydrogen explosion, we’ve been just informed by the plant. It’s the first report…
At 1F (Yoshida, overlapping Komori): Please take shelter, make sure everyone is safe, take shelter. Then, measure the dose rate carefully and report. Now, everyone, please gather closer, and make sure everyone is OK.
(4:06) Yoshida: And there’s also a tsunami warning. As a precaution, please withdraw [to shelter] as soon as possible.
(4:20) At 1F: Uh… as soon as you confirm, to the [worker] welfare unit, please report to the welfare unit once people take shelter. Please report to the welfare unit.
(4:33) HQ (TEPCO’s then-president Shimizu): This is Shimizu, head of the [HQ Response team]. Inform the related parties and report back right away… (1)
At 12:30 clock to plant manager Masao Yoshida announced at the company’s management in Tokyo. Previously, it was around 11:00 clock came to a hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima reactor 3. It told Yoshida, “The radiation dose reached its limit. I want to make sure “. President Shimizu said Yoshida then beschwichtigendem tone: “Please try it on in one way or another!” Around 13:00 clock on the same day, the plant manager, the leadership in Tokyo, measures asked for meetings to produce hydrogen from reactor 2 release: “I want them to think about ways you can quickly open open into the reactor building – with a helicopter or whatever. ” – SpreadNews (1)
In a teleconference soon after 12:30 p.m. on March 14, 2011, Yoshida told TEPCO headquarters, “Exposure doses are reaching their limits. I want you to pay attention to that!” Then TEPCO President Masataka Shimizu told Yoshida in a conciliatory tone, “Please keep trying in one way or another!” – Mainichi (1) * dead link
The footage also recorded a scene in which Yoshida got so frustrated by the failure to cool down the nuclear reactors and stop their meltdown. At around 1 p.m. on March 14, 2011, Yoshida asked TEPCO headquarters to take steps to release hydrogen into the atmosphere from the No. 2 reactor, saying, “I want you to think of ways to open a hole (in the reactor building) immediately by using helicopters or whatever.“ – Mainichi (1) *dead link
The footage documents how Tepco executives scrambled at times to make sense of what was going on. In an exchange following the March 14 explosion at Unit 3, executives at Tokyo headquarters struggled with the wording of a news release on what happened. “We don’t know if it’s a hydrogen explosion,” said one executive, who then added that government regulator Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, “said it’s a hydrogen explosion on TV. We‘d better toe the line.” “What do you think?” asked another executive. Then-President Masataka Shimizu said: “That’s fine. Speed matters most.’‘- WSJ (1)
In the early afternoon of March 14, Mr. Yoshida told headquarters, “I’d like to report that employees are in a state of shock after not being able to prevent the two explosions. We are feeling down, all of us. We do what we can, but morale is hurt pretty badly.” – WSJ (1)
One executive at headquarters told Mr. Yoshida that the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata had offered to send 10 people. immediately. “We appreciate that people are working in such difficult circumstances,” Mr. Shimizu added. “Hang in there for the moment.” – WSJ (1)
Confusion over injecting water at reactor No. 2 (approximate timecode: 16:45-18:30) March 14, 2011,around 5 p.m. This clip documents the confusion on the ground as Mr. Yoshida and the Fukushima Daiichi crew tried to head off a meltdown at reactor 2, which was dangerously overheating. By this time, the prime minister’s office as well as a range of experts and Tepco officials were weighing in on what to do — interventions later blamed for confusing and slowing down the response on the ground. Haruki Madarame, head of the Nuclear Safety Commission, has been calling for more water to be injected into the reactor before venting some of the pressure that’s built up in the reactor. The workers at Fukushima Daiichi have been struggling with vent lines. Mr. Yoshida is juggling competing demands and trying to get clear directions, under tremendous time pressure. Impatient with one explanation from an expert at Fukushima Daiichi on a technical issue, Mr. Yoshida snaps, “We don’t have time.” He rattles off a list of names from the prime minister’s office to Mr. Madarame and says they “want (the vent line set up) right away. I’m asking if that’s OK.” Mr. Yoshida then tells one of his subordinates, “We can start (water injection) as soon as the vent line is established. How’s the situation?” The worker replies: “We are working on that.” Mr. Yoshida: “What?” Worker: “It’s not hooked up yet. Please wait a second.” Mr. Yoshida: “What do you mean ‘Wait a second?’ I told you, put aside other things — checking the situation, and so forth.” Another official at the off-site center: “Is my understanding correct that we’re focusing on establishing the vent line?” An official at Tepco headquarters: “Are we sticking to the current plan? Can we tell that to Mr. Madarame?” Mr. Yoshida: “Yes. Head office, I’d like you to please follow up with that. I don’t have time to explain.” – WSJ (1)
The footage also showed Tepco Managing Director Akio Komori, one of the key executives involved in handling the crisis, urging others to decide the conditions for withdrawing the workers after the utility surmised that the fuel rods in reactor 2 were fully exposed at 6:22 p.m. on March 14. – Japan Times (1)
Tepco executives discuss possibility of evacuating the plant (approximate timecode: 23:00-24:30) March 14, 2011, around 7 p.m. This clip touches on what’s been one of the most controversial and politically sensitive aspects of Tepco’s accident response: Was the utility at one point planning to evacuate all its workers from Fukushima Daiichi, abandoning the plant to a complete and catastrophic meltdown? Japanese government officials, including former Prime Minister Naoto Kan, have said that former Tepco President Masataka Shimizu told them he was planning to pull out the workers; Mr. Shimizu insists he was misunderstood and was merely talking about an evacuation of non-essential personnel. From this clip, it’s not clear exactly what Tepco was planning to do. Managing director Akio Komori at Tepco headquarters starts off with, “We have to think about the rules for evacuation. Whether we can really stay in the control room of the plants. The situation could get very bad. Someone has to make a decision (for a pullout).” Tepco executive Sakae Muto, who oversaw the company’s nuclear operations, chimes in with, “OK. Please do that. But before making a decision on that, let’s make sure we’re on the same page with respect to the time that the reactor core (at Unit 2) could (become exposed). That’s 18:22 (March 14), right?” Mr. Yoshida: “That’s correct.” Mr. Muto: “And the core will meltdown and damage the reactor pressure vessel in two hours, correct?” Mr. Yoshida: “Yes.” Mr. Muto: “What does the accident management manual say about evacuation when the (reactor pressure vessel) gets damaged?” Someone at Tepco headquarters: “Sorry, I don’t remember the guidelines for evacuation.” – WSJ (1)
“Somebody needs to come up with a criterion for a pullout. At some point, we need to make a decision on whether we can stay at the plant or (its) control rooms. Please start considering the criterion,” Komori said around 7:30 p.m. (March 14) – Japan Times (1)
“At what time will all the workers be evacuating from the site?” Akio Takahashi, a senior executive at Tepco’s Tokyo headquarters is heard asking Sakae Muto, then executive vice president, at 7:55 p.m. on March 14, the audible portion of the video shows. – Japan Times (1)
Takahashi asked again, “all the people will soon evacuate from 1F (a reference to Fukushima No. 1) to the visitor hall of 2F (the nearby Fukushima No. 2 plant), right?“ – JapanTimes (1)
Tepco President Masataka Shimizu is heard saying at around 8:20 p.m. that “a final evacuation has not been decided yet” and that he is in the process of checking with “related authorities,” possibly referring to the office of then Prime Minister Naoto Kan – Japan Times (1)
Confusion continued on March 14, when at 8:50 p.m., it was reported that the plant had still received no gasoline. “Wasn’t it arranged that gasoline would be delivered to the plant?” asked Akio Takahashi, a senior official at TEPCO headquarters, in a surprised tone. An official at headquarters in charge of transport said 17 barrels with a 200-liter capacity had been fixed for delivery. But he said the gasoline was still sitting in Onahama. Takahashi pressed for details and the official replied: “I will find out.” TEPCO headquarters reported the gasoline barrels were stuck in Onahama because no trucks were available to transport the gasoline. “It has not left yet,” an official said. “We were told there were no trucks, but we will get it there.” (2)
In one segment, from March 14, Mr. Yoshida at Fukushima Daiichi and Tepco executives at headquarters had a chaotic discussion over the best way to cool the overheating No. 2 reactor, with Mr. Yoshida yelling that the plant was running out of time. – Zee News (1)
In another segment, also on March 14, Tepco executives discussed when might be the right time to order an evacuation of the plant. – Zee News (1)
“Are we providing a release on this?” TEPCO vice president Sakae Muto asks while discussing the meltdown of Unit 2′s reactor core. A plant worker says no, while another executive, Akio Komori, instructs workers to quickly conduct radiation monitoring because they might have to evacuate at some point. – AP (1) * dead link
To this, another TEPCO official replies that he does not know the evacuation procedures contained in an emergency manual: “Sorry, that’s not in my head.” – AP (1) * dead link
“Don’t ask us any questions,” he says. “Don’t disturb us, because we are now in the middle of trying to open the vent for the containment vessel.” With the situation at the No. 2 reactor growing more serious by the hour, there emerges a difference of opinion between Yoshida and Haruki Madarame, chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, over what measure to take. At 4:15 p.m. Yoshida presents his concerns to those at TEPCO headquarters, saying: “I received a phone call from Madarame of the NSC and he suggested that rather than use the vent line of the containment vessel, it would be better to pump in water first. Would it be all right to act under that judgment?” According to Madarame, steam has to be released from the pressure vessel in order to inject water into the vessel containing the fuel rods. However, Yoshida is of the opinion that the pressure will not drop unless the water temperature in the pool to which the steam would have to be released was lowered. Unless that is done, he says, there is the possibility that exposure of the fuel rods could occur sooner. Yoshida asks those at TEPCO headquarters to try to convince Madarame. However, soon thereafter it becomes clear that Yoshida’s measures will not work. Hearing that, Shimizu gives instructions to use the measures called for by Madarame. Work proceeds according to Madarame’s instructions, but the valve does not open immediately and valuable time slips by. In the end, the situation remains serious, as neither measure has worked. At 4:57 p.m., Shimizu gives instructions to those at the Fukushima plant to carry on their response while keeping in mind the worst-case scenario. Those at Fukushima say such a scenario would unfold in about two hours if nothing is done. At7:27 p.m., more than two hours later, discussion among those at TEPCO headquarters is centered on the possibility that all of the fuel rods have become exposed. At that time, Akio Komori, the managing executive director, who is at the off-site center in Okuma, Fukushima Prefecture, mentions evacuation. “Please proceed with the consideration of evacuation standards, because unless a decision is made somewhere about whether workers should remain at the central operating room something terrible will happen,” he says. While discussions are being held about evacuating workers from the plant, there is agreement that all of the fuel rods at the No. 2 reactor were exposed above water at 6:22 p.m. Akio Takahashi, a senior official, says, “Can someone at headquarters confirm that we are evacuating everyone at Fukushima No. 1 to the visitor hall at Fukushima No. 2?” Before Takahashi makes this comment, Shimizu can be seen talking on his mobile phone at 7:48 p.m. and leaving the video screen to the right. He is not visible in the video for a short period. Muto occasionally sits in the seat that Shimizu occupied. While The Asahi Shimbun has reported that at that time Shimizu was trying to get in contact with an aide to Banri Kaieda, the economy minister at that time, no direct confirmation can be made from the video. After Shimizu reappears on the video, he says, “I want to first confirm that at the present time we have not yet made a decision on a final evacuation. I am also right now proceeding with confirmation procedures with the proper authorities. – Asahi Shimbun (1)
One of those present was considered when the reactor core was damaged already because of the high pressure, it would take only a few hours until the containment vessel will be damaged. The quick succession of bad news has brought a lot of those present to beat her hands to her face, or loud aufzuseufzen (sigh). But with the increasing threat, and there were differences between the chairman of the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) Haruki Madarame, and plant manager Yoshida. At 16:15 clock called the Yoshida TEPCO guide his concerns. Madarame have suggested to him by telephone, it must be vented steam from the pressure vessel, so that pump water into the container, which contained the fuel rods could. Yoshida took the view that the pressure will not decrease until the temperature of the water in the cooling tank can be lowered. Otherwise, the fuel rods are exposed faster than would be the case for water cooling. The plant manager then asked the TEPCO leadership to convince Madarame. Shortly after it became clear that those policies do not work by Yoshida. Finally possessed TEPCO President Shimizu, one should proceed according to the plans of Madarame. Since the valve is left open, however, not immediately as arranged, valuable time was lost without the seriousness of the situation has improved. * At 16:57 clock Shimizu gave instructions to continue the work. In the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, it was felt that would happen to the maximum credible accident in about two hours if you grab any action. * 19:27 clock, which is more than two hours later, the headquarters debated whether the possibility existed that could already be free of all the fuel rods. First evacuation considerations about the same time brought in a branch office in Okuma (Fukushima Pref) present Managing Director Akio Komori first time the concept of evacuation to the game. You should also think about how to proceed with the evacuation directives because if a decision would be taken somewhere on the whereabouts of the workers in the main control room, could harm already done. It agrees that clock at 18:22, while discussed the possible evacuation of workers, the fuel rods of Fukushima reactor 2 were exposed above the water table. Akio Takahashi, a senior executive in the video then asks if anyone could headquartered in the evacuation of all workers of Fukushima Daiichi (Fukushima 1) in the lobby of Fukushima Daini (Fukushima 2) confirm. Shortly before this comment is to see how TEPCO President Shimizu leads against 19:48 clock a conversation by cell phone while on the right comes from the view of the camera. Shimizu and reappears later explained that he wanted to first make it clear that was taken at this stage no decision on a final evacuation. He was in the process to obtain feedback from the relevant competent authorities before he again leaves the camera field. – SpreadNews (1)
Also on March 14*, the videos showed then-Prime Minister Naoto Kan bursting into TEPCO’s Tokyo office, rebuking officials and demanding they work harder. The portion of his visit has no sound. While Kan spoke for 20 minutes, operations at Fukushima Dai-ichi seemed halted, with officials and workers there, as well as TEPCO executives in Tokyo, sitting straight and quietly listening to him. Shown from behind, Kan spoke at length, appeared upset, and frequently raised and lowered his arms. Government and parliamentary investigation reports have said that Kan, who thought TEPCO executives planned to fully withdraw workers and abandon the plant, yelled at TEPCO executives, demanding they “risk their lives” to get the plant under control. In a separate video segment, TEPCO executives debated a withdrawal but it is unclear whether they meant a partial withdrawal. Kan also reportedly said Japan would be destroyed if the plant situation worsened. – CBS (1)
Later that evening, it was Mr. Yoshida’s turn to reassure executives at headquarters. In an exchange between Mr. Yoshida and Mr. Muto, the two discussed a radiation reading of 3.2 millisieverts per hour just logged at the plant—around three times the level Japanese would normally expect to accumulate in a year. Mr. Muto worried that the radiation reading was “extremely high.” Mr. Yoshida claimed it was “nothing,” since the plant had seen similar levels many times. “I tell you something,” Mr. Yoshida said. “I don’t think about radiation anymore.” – WSJ (1)
6:00 am March 15, 2011 Unit 4 exploded. “At approximately 6:00 am, a loud explosion was heard from within the power station. Afterward, it was confirmed that the 4th-floor rooftop area of the Unit 4 Nuclear Reactor Building had sustained damage.” 3_15_2011Unit_4_Explosion
“Are we providing a release on this?” asked TEPCO vice president Sakae Muto, while discussing with other officials the timing of the March 15* melting of Unit 2′s reactor core. An anonymous plant worker says no, while another executive, Akio Komori, instructed workers to quickly conduct radiation monitoring as he suggested they might have to evacuate at some point. Komori said workers may have to withdraw from the unit control room. A TEPCO official said he did not know evacuation details in an emergency manual: “Sorry, that’s not in my head.” – CBS (1) * dead link
Comments without a day/time association:
Masao Yoshida, then chief of the power plant, is recorded as saying elderly veterans on-site “are ready to work as a (suicide) squad” to secure a pipe to be used for pumping seawater into reactor 2 to cool it down. – JapanTimes (1)
The Unit 2 reactor was the most critical in the first few days, which Yoshida described as a “skin-tight” situation. “Radiation levels are extremely high. You don’t understand because you’re not here, but it’s really a skin-tight situation. (The workers) can go in only a short while, and they have to rotate.” – CBS (1) * dead link
In the videos, then-plant chief Masao Yoshida complained about phone calls to the prime minister’s office not getting through and showed frustration as he fought the government’s nuclear safety officials interfering with technical suggestions that didn’t fit the plant’s conditions. – CBS (1) * dead link
This machine-translated section appears to be after unit 3 exploded on the 14th but the translation is not 100% clear. They are apparently discussing fabricating information about “non-combustible gas” leaking at the plant. The machine translation:
“ TEPCO officials had approached, “Do not make a” mock measures “. Was to pretend to have taken measures to prevent an explosion. March 14, No. 3 last year, Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant exploded hydrogen, for answers to queries from Okuma-machi, Fukushima Prefecture, TEPCO headquarters personnel were consulted Takahashi Fellow. Proposal for “You are considered potentially combustible gas can not be denied that the leaked”, Takahashi Fellows are, or say mock the mock anti-”, ‘s or are studying measures for prevention and gave an opinion? “I Can not we write this. Can be seen even though there is no leakage of gas concrete measures, and tried to Misekakeyo as if they take measures to residents.”
According to Fukushima Diary, the translation was that Takahashi and executive with TEPCO in Tokyo asks workers at the plant to fabricate data so it looked like they were taking action to deal with leaking gas and that none was leaking. Fukushima Diary’s translation: “For this suggestion, Takahashi commented, “Can’t you make up some fake measures? fake, I mean something to sound as if we were making some steps to prevent the gas from leaking. Can’t you write it? ””
This is all for a response to the city of Okuma very close to the plant. (1)
Yomiuri quotes (and EX-SKF translates) “Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata is heard on the phone with TEPCO’s senior management, “It is a judgment call whether it is OK to disturb citizens. If I’m asked about it (possibility of hydrogen explosion) in the next press conference, I will deny it, and say it is not possible.” (1)
Asahi also reports this exchange where Takashashi tries to send out public information without real confirmation.
“In short, the only change we have made was replacing ‘No. 1 reactor’ with the ‘No. 3 reactor’?” Takahashi said in the footage. “We do not know whether it was a hydrogen explosion, but since the government–the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency–is saying it is a hydrogen explosion, we can just say so–a hydrogen explosion, can’t we?” (1)
WSJ reports a series of exchanges where TEPCO and Daiichi staff were trying to figure out how to relieve hydrogen at unit 2. All the while the blowout panel on unit 2 had been out since March 13 yet nobody knew this. Daiichi staff apparently had not been on that side to see. The plant was likely without security cameras due to no AC power. No outside media reported it. We found it on a March 13 digital globe satellite image. So the entire exchange wasted time and had no fundamental purpose in improving the response. WSJ’s claim that unit 1′s blast knocked out the panel is possibly incorrect as the position of unit 1 to unit 2′s side with the panel makes that less likely due to the angle. An alternative explanation could be that Yoshida knew about the blowout panel but was worried enough hydrogen could be captured under the roof that a top hole was needed. (1)
2. TEPCO videos: Sans equipment, staff, Fukushima crisis spun out of control http://ajw.asahi.com/article/0311disaster/fukushima/AJ201209050060
Archive copy: TEPCO Video Events Asahi
3. BBC Timeline http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-12722719
Archive copy: BBC News – Timeline_ Japan power plant crisis